Labor MP Andrew Leigh has accused big businesses of rorting the JobKeeper scheme, by using it to pay executive bonuses and shareholders.
However one company has hit back, saying many self-funded retirees and mum and dad shareholders relied on dividend income.
In a stinging address to Parliament on Monday, the Member for Fenner said a small number of firms were misusing the wage subsidy scheme - which had was designed to shield Australians from the worst impacts of the coronavirus shutdowns - by channelling it to executive bonuses.
"Accent Group received $13 million in JobKeeper and gave CEO Daniel Agostinelli a $1.2 million bonus," Dr Leigh said.
"IDP Education received $4 million in JobKeeper and gave CEO Andrew Barkla a $600,000 bonus. Last year he was Australia's highest paid CEO, taking home $37 million.
"Star Casino received $64 million in JobKeeper and gave CEO Matt Bekier an equity bonus worth $800,000.
"SeaLink received $8 million in JobKeeper and gave CEO Clinton Feuerherdt a $500,000 bonus.
"If you're getting taxpayer subsidies, the CEO should not be getting a bonus."
Dr Leigh also said JobKeeper was being claimed by companies paying out millions in dividends to shareholders.
"Furniture firm Nick Scali received $4 million from Australian and New Zealand taxpayers. Its increased dividend will deliver $2 million to the Scali family," Dr Leigh said.
"1300SMILES got $2 million in JobKeeper and paid out $3 million to shareholders. Managing director Daryl Holmes owns two-thirds of the company and so will get about $2 million, roughly what his company received in JobKeeper support."
Dr Leigh named more companies in another speech on Tuesday.
He said Adairs received $18 million in JobKeeper and its New Zealand equivalent and paid $11 million to shareholders. Harvey Norman and its franchisees received $9 million and will pay $75 million in dividends.
"In other countries, regulators are asking firms to choose between getting government handouts and paying dividends. In New Zealand, Mainfreight paid back its taxpayer subsidies. They said, 'We didn't deserve it'," Dr Leigh said.
"But these companies I've named are too stingy to pay it back, and the Treasurer is too gutless to ask them to do it."
However a spokesman for 1300Smiles said the company "strongly objected" to the way its use of JobKeeper had been characterised.
"The dividend in question relates to the company's full financial performance to June 2020. Despite the pandemic's impacts during March, April and May, during government-imposed restrictions, the company delivered a strong financial performance and growth under Dr. Holmes' leadership," he said.
"The company has financial obligations to its shareholders, which include many self-funded retirees and mum and dad shareholders who depend on dividend income. The continued impacts of the pandemic remain unclear, but the financial performance and dividends paid to shareholders at the conclusion of the current financial year will reflect those impacts."
JobKeeper had helped the company keep on around 200 of its staff, even though multiple dental practices had been forced to close and there was a dramatic hit in earnings, the spokesman said.
He also pointed out Dr Holmes is on a remuneration package of around $90,000, far lower than the leaders of other ASX-listed companies.
IDP Education declined to comment.
To be eligible for JobKeeper, companies with a turnover of less than $1 billion had to show they had a 30 per cent fall in turnover. Companies with a turnover of more than $1 billion had to demonstrate a crash in revenue of 50 per cent.
The Senate passed changes to the scheme on Wednesday that would extend JobKeeper to March 2021.
Businesses will have to prove they are still eligible for the scheme post September 28 while the wage subsidy will now be paid at different rates for full-time and part-time workers
ASIC warned companies in June to avoid "unintended variable pay outcomes" stemming from the coronavirus crisis.
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